In “Superintelligence,” an average human being must convince a sentient AI program not to wipe out humanity. Lucky for all of us, the film “Superintelligence” is not entered as evidence that our continued existence is justified.
It’s probably the most technically accomplished of the four theatrical features (to date) that Ben Falcone has directed with his wife Melissa McCarthy in the starring role, but this partnership continues to be an imbalanced one, at least in terms of results. Their collaborations (which also include “Tammy,” “The Boss,” and “Life of the Party”) constitute both her least-interesting movies as an actress and the entirety of his career as a filmmaker.
As collaborators and co-stars, they can be hilarious together — in performance; once he steps to the other side of the camera, however, the magic they create as a team seems to dissipate. Neither of them gets much assistance from the screenplay by Steve Mallory (“The Boss”), which hinges the fate of mankind on a relationship between two people who, to paraphrase the witch from “Into the Woods,” aren’t bad, aren’t good, they’re just nice.
Carol (McCarthy), our protagonist, does want to do good in the world; since stepping down from her exec position at Yahoo, she’s spent most of her time working for environmental and pet-rescue non-profits. When the computer program inside an educational toy achieves awareness and becomes Superintelligence, it selects Carol as the “most median” person alive to teach it about humanity; based on what it learns, it will either save the human race, subjugate it, or wipe it out entirely.
Superintelligence originally has a somewhat threatening voice that sends Carol into a panic, so to calm her down, it starts talking like James Corden. That Corden himself is providing the voice could have been a mildly funny gag, but the film presses that button over and over again, to the point where characters have a conversation to remind each other about his Tony win for “One Man, Two Guvnors.” Rather than play on Corden’s ubiquity as a pitchman and TV talking head, the film merely exacerbates his constant presence.
Anyway, Superintelligence buys Carol a Tesla (which it drives), overhauls her wardrobe, gets her a swanky penthouse, and establishes a two-billion-dollar foundation in her name — which is mostly forgotten by the movie and by Carol, despite her philanthropic bent. What the AI really wants is to observe her at her most human and vulnerable, so it sends her off to mend fences with her ex, George (Bobby Cannavale), a literature professor who is days away from taking off to Ireland on a fellowship.
As the U.S. government — aided by Carol’s buddy Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry), a Microsoft web-security expert — tries to take down the Superintelligence, “Superintelligence” spends most of its time on the exceedingly uninteresting saga of whether or not Carol and George get back together. Even when played by performers as dynamic as McCarthy and Cannavale, these characters can’t manage one personality between them. Altruism is a virtue, but it’s not an identity, and if we had a better idea who Carol was before meeting Superintelligence, or perhaps more of a backstory behind her world-saving ways, this movie might actually go somewhere or have something to say.
McCarthy, even in her most forgettable movies, always manages to squeeze out some memorable moments, whether she’s enduring a ridiculous job interview or enduring a series of ludicrous couture creations in a trying-on-clothes montage. Henry finds little moments of absurdity throughout that make his scenes a highlight, and you have to give at least a little credit to any film that casts Jean Smart as the President of the United States.
Otherwise, this is a production that is, at best, superaverage.